New research, published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, confirms that the eating habits and food choices by individuals is controlled by their genes. Researchers from the Miriam Hospital’s Weight Control and Diabetes Center confirm that individuals with variations in obesity genes tend to eat more meals and snacks and consume more calories per day eating high fat, sugary foods.
A prior study had linked obesity and over eating in children to a mutation of the fast mass and obesity associated gene FTO and BDNF (or brain-derived neurotrophic factor gene) with an increased risk for obesity. The FTO and BDNF genes are expressed in the part of the brain that controls eating and appetite, although the mechanisms by which these gene variations influence obesity is still unknown. This is the first study to correlate these same genes in adults.
“Understanding how our genes influence obesity is critical in trying to understand the current obesity epidemic, yet it’s important to remember that genetic traits alone do not mean obesity is inevitable,” said lead author Jeanne M. McCaffery, Ph.D., of The Miriam Hospital’s Weight Control and Diabetes Research Center.
“Our lifestyle choices are critical when it comes to determining how thin or heavy we are, regardless of your genetic traits,” she added. “However, uncovering genetic markers can possibly pinpoint future interventions to control obesity in those who are genetically predisposed.”
Variations on the FTO gene significantly increased the consumption of a greater number of meals and snacks per day, greater percentage of energy from fat and more servings of fats, oils and sweets.
“We show that at least some of the genetic influence on obesity may occur through patterns of dietary intake,” McCaffery said. “The good news is that eating habits can be modified, so we may be able to reduce one’s genetic risk for obesity by changing these eating patterns.”
J. M. McCaffery, G. D. Papandonatos, I. Peter, G. S. Huggins, H. A. Raynor, L. M. Delahanty, L. J. Cheskin, A. Balasubramanyam, L. E. Wagenknecht, R. R. Wing. Obesity susceptibility loci and dietary intake in the Look AHEAD Trial. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 2012; 95 (6): 1477 DOI: 10.3945/ajcn.111.026955